Hi, friends. 👋🏻👋🏻
What a week! Not only were markets extremely volatile, many companies and industries continue to undergo fascinating change. Major change is coming in the media space if Snap, Twitter, and Spotify’s recent investor / product presentations were any indication. And beyond that…the boom in NFTs (non-fungible [crypto]tokens) is wild in its own right.
This and more below. 👇🏻👇🏻👇🏻
As always, thanks for making the time to read.
#1 Treasury Yields Surge Past 1.6%, Sounding Alarm for Risk Assets
Yields took off with startling speed on Thursday, with the rate on 10-year Treasuries at one point reaching 1.61%, the highest in a year. In a telltale warning sign for some strategists, the 5-year Treasury yield soared convincingly above 0.75%, a crucial level that was expected to exacerbate selling, as traders pulled forward bets on when the Federal Reserve will start lifting policy rates. The 10-year U.S. real yield — which strips out inflation and is seen as a pure read on growth prospects — climbed as much as 25 basis points to a level last seen in June.
The latest leg in this frenetic fixed-income tumble came on a sudden wave of selling after demand cratered at the Treasury’s 7-year note auction Thursday. Yields globally are now at levels last seen before the coronavirus spread worldwide. Central banks have attempted to soothe markets, with European Central Bank chief economist Philip Lane saying the institution can buy bonds flexibly and Fed Chair Jerome Powell calling the recent run-up in yields “a statement of confidence” in the economic outlook. While higher real rates signal growth is gaining traction, investors are becoming uneasy over the sustainability of the recovery as borrowing costs hurtle upwards.
Adding to the bond slump are forced sellers in the $7 trillion mortgage-backed bond market, who are likely unloading the long-maturity Treasury bonds they hold or adjusting derivatives positions to compensate for the unexpected jump in duration on their mortgage portfolios. It’s a phenomenon known as convexity hedging, and the extra selling has a history of exacerbating upward moves in Treasury yields — including during major “convexity events” in 1994 and 2003.Source: Bloomberg
Treasury yields have risen very, very sharply recently as investors start to think more about the consequences of loose monetary policy (both in the US and globally). Loose monetary policy was certainly beneficial and necessary to blunt the impact of the COVID-19 recession, but with recovering growth and continued loose policy, inflation fears are starting to entered the dialogue.
Capital Flywheels anticipates that these fears will become even more acute later this year when we will very likely experience a spike in inflation as loose monetary and fiscal policy (including another tranche of stimulus coming in the next few weeks) collides with vaccine-induced economic reopening / normalization. Demand will rise, while many of our supply chains will likely be slower to ramp. This will lead to a bout of inflation that will likely create real fears of run-away inflation. Capital Flywheels currently does not believe we are (yet?) facing untamable inflation, but fears will certainly rise when inflation temporarily spikes to…say 3%?
While the rise in yields has been sharp, for the most part yields have “only” returned to approximately where they were at the end of 2019.
The rise in yields had a major impact on risk assets (like stocks) during the week since treasury yields are an important gauge in measuring opportunity costs and the time value of money. When treasury yields are low, investors feel more compelled to invest in either riskier or longer duration assets in order to earn a higher return. But if treasury yields rise (as they have now, and sharply), the equation starts to change.
The sharp rise in yields and impact on high-flying stocks has led to a rough week for ARK Invest. If you’re not familiar, ARK Invest is an ETF fund family founded by Cathie Wood. It has grown its assets under management significantly over the last 12 months (close to $50 billion) due to very strong performance, driven by thematic bets in areas like genomics, cryptocurrencies, EVs, and fintech.
While Capital Flywheels shares many of the same interests as ARK Invest’s core areas of investments, ARK has certainly taken a fairly risky approach in Capital Flywheels opinion with meaningful preference for small companies (especially relative to the size ARK has grown to). The situation is worth monitoring simply because if ARK runs into trouble, the Paper Portfolio will likely face headwinds since ARK is a major shareholder in a number of stocks held in the Paper Portfolio (e.g. Square, Shopify, Pinterest, etc). Even for the names without direct overlap, if ARK continues to be pressured, it will likely pressure the thematic areas in which they (and the Paper Portfolio) invest.
#2 Cathie Wood’s Power in Some Stocks Is Even Bigger Than It Seems
A rough week for Cathie Wood is reminding Wall Street that Ark Investment Management has a lot of cash in not that many companies. In fact, the firm’s dominance in some stocks may be even greater than it seems.
Ark now owns more than 10% of at least 29 companies via its exchange-traded funds, up from 24 just two weeks ago, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.Source: Bloomberg
While we’re on the topic of ARK Invest, a friend recently sent me an interview that Cathie Wood did with Jesus Calling. This has to be one of the most fascinating and unexpected things I’ve read in a long, long while.
The ARK in ARK Invest now makes sense! Though, I am now a little more concerned about ARK’s investment process…As a fairly spiritually-inclined person, I have nothing against religion (other than, obviously, religious extremism). And investing can often be very trying, especially through times of volatility. We all need conviction to hang on during those trying times. Capital Flywheels firmly believes that that source of conviction should always be based on careful and clear observation of business reality. Religion can be a source of conviction, but all investment decisions ultimately should be based on observations of business reality and conviction around that.
The interview makes me a little more concerned that religion might play a bigger role in decisions than it should. BUT, the Paper Portfolio and my own personal money is hitched along for the ride, so power to her. I sincerely wish her the best since, at this point, our outcomes are somewhat correlated.
#3 Surviving and Thriving to Help God’s Children: Victoria Damone & Catherine Wood
Catherine Wood: My name is Cathie Wood. First of all, I’m the mother of three children, Caitlin, Caroline, and Robert, and I’m also the chief executive officer and chief investment officer of a company I founded in 2014 named ARK Invest.
I belong to a group at Walnut Hill Community Church, an incredibly supportive group for leaders of companies. One of the leaders introduced me to the book Jesus Calling and said, “I have just become a believer. I’ve started reading this book.” His wife had been a believer for her entire life. “I’ve started reading this book, and it’s transformed me in terms of thinking about my business in the context of my faith.” And so I began to read Jesus Calling every day, starting in 2006. And it really helped to center me and ground me.
Well, I started ARK Invest at the age of fifty-seven, so it was quite late in my career. I believe my career is starting all over again, though. I decided to name my company after the Ark of the Covenant, because as I was going through that very difficult period starting in ‘06, where the market, nothing made sense to me, I started reading the One-Year Bible, after I would read the passage for the day, I would then just open it up randomly and say, “God, speak to me. Just show me what to do. Show me Your will. Show me Your way.”
And not every time I did that, but I would say every third or fourth time, I would run into the Ark of the Covenant being taken into the Israelites, taking the Ark of the Covenant into battle before them, because they believed that the presence of God was in the Ark of the Covenant. As I began to get this idea of a firm going and realized that I was fighting this war, I knew I had to name my company “ARK” for Ark of the Covenant.
I founded the company out of faith. I got this calling one day when I walked into my home. It was a beautiful summer day. I walked in to complete silence, which was very unusual in my household at that time. The children were all gone to Christian camps and other activities. And so I was all alone for the first time ever in my house, all alone for two full weeks. And I walked over to the kitchen island and I wasn’t happy and I wasn’t sad. I was just, Wow, this has never happened to me before.
As soon as I said that to myself, I felt a wham and I really feel like that was the Holy Spirit just saying to me, “Okay, this is the plan.” And the idea was basically, “Look, you’ve been a student of disruptive innovation your entire career. Why don’t you disrupt your own industry? It’s broken. Why do you disrupt it with some of these new technologies? Why don’t you harness social media? Why don’t you invite people in—even your competitors—to brainstorm about these new ideas, to help spread the word?” And so I did that, and it’s been amazing. It’s so much better than anything that I could have possibly imagined.
I funded it for the first three years all by myself. And for the first three years, our assets didn’t grow that much. And I thought, Oh my goodness, what have I done? Every two weeks there was an exit of a significant amount of my wealth into the company. And I would kneel down and say, “Okay, God, You’re in control. Even if this company fails, I know I’ve done the right thing. This is a walk of faith for me. Your will be done.”Source: Jesus Calling
#4 NFTs Boom as Collectors Shell Out to ‘Own’ Digital Art
IT STARTED WITH CryptoKitties. In December 2017, the dopey-looking cartoon cats, created by Canadian company Dapper Labs, debuted as tradable collectibles, like Pokémon cards for the bitcoin era. Each image was associated with a unique string of digits—a cryptocurrency “non-fungible token,” or NFT—that could be traded on the Ethereum blockchain platform as a title deed granting the holder ownership of a particular kitty.
The trading game quickly caught on among the crypto-initiated, so much so that CryptoKitties-related transactions clogged and slowed down Ethereum. That was eventually solved—and that was, for most people, the last they heard of CryptoKitties. But the process the goggle-eyed cats set off did not end there. Its end point is an auction that started on Thursday, in which a token associated with a digital collage of 5,000 images by graphic designer Beeple went under the hammer at auction house Christie’s. Cryptocurrency payments were of course accepted.
NFTs are selling like hotcakes, and this time the Ethereum network, which has been upgraded since 2017, is better equipped to deal with the endless sloshing. One recent report by NonFungible.com, a company releasing market insights on NFTs, says that in 2020, NFT trading was worth over $250 million, an increase of almost 300 percent from the previous year. On online platforms such as Rarible, OpenSea, and Nifty Gateway (backed by twins Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss), people are shelling out big sums of cryptocurrency and legal tender to buy tokens representing ownership of digital objects, which are then often reauctioned at higher prices. Some of these NFTs are stand-ins for collectibles in the tradition of CryptoKitties—like Non-Fungible Pepes, a postmodern bid to reclaim the meme frog from the alt-right; others are objects intended to be used in video games. But more and more they are linked to pieces of digital art designed by honest-to-God creators such as Beeple—who, two months ago, sold a token for $777,777 on Nifty Gateway.Source: Wired
What a world we live in.
I actually sort of get this more than Bitcoin being used as a “real currency”. I can sort of understand the appeal of this, having watched the art market with fascination for years. I also have an incredible fascination with the sneaker secondary market and companies like StockX and GOAT where people trade rare sneakers (and other collectibles) for thousands of dollars. This stuff is not totally insane to me, but what a world…even then, I’ll need some time to digest what this means.
But NFTs are meant to be collected and hodl’d. Makes much more spiritual sense with what crypto people want to do anyway. Makes way more sense (to me) than actually trying to spend Bitcoin at a candy store. The amount of time it takes to process a Bitcoin transaction almost makes it a non-started as a currency, in my opinion.
#5 Spotify CEO Daniel Ek Explains How the Company Plans to Help Artists (and Itself) Make Money
Spotify hosted an event on Monday to discuss its ambitions in audio, and one message came through loud and clear: the company wants to play a major role in helping creators make money.
During the 90-minute event, the company rattled through a series of announcements. It detailed a slew of new podcasts, including one featuring former President Barack Obama and rockstar Bruce Springsteen as co-hosts, as well as a full universe of DC Comics programming. It debuted an expanded podcast ad marketplace, bolstered by its Megaphone acquisition and Streaming Ad Insertion technology, along with a Hi-Fi subscription tier. And it teased new tools for podcasters to engage with their audiences and make money through subscriptions. Spotify obviously intends to make podcasting a real revenue driver.
Spotify will both support its own shows and also host and sell ads for third-party programs, all with the stated goal of helping creators profit off their work. That seems like a tall order, and one that podcasters might hesitate to participate in, but Spotify CEO Daniel Ek says it’s critical to the company’s future. He tells The Verge that Spotify will incorporate a hybrid business model with three distinct parts. One will involve the typical user subscription revenue, another is advertising dollars through its podcast ad marketplace and music streaming ads, and the third is a la carte options, like helping musicians and podcasters sell merch, tour tickets, or even subscriptions to their own content.Source: Spotify
Spotify hosted an event to discuss its future plans with a lot of emphasize on helping artists monetize.
The audio market has never been all that interesting to me because it doesn’t seem that scalable, and there are a lot of strange, intractable dynamics with music labels.
The budding podcast / Clubhouse / audio room market looks more interesting, but still doesn’t seem to be all that scalable compared to the other parts of the tech / digital world.
Nonetheless, I think Spotify can be a meaningfully larger company because the internet is massive. Even if audio is not particularly scalable, controlling a small piece of the internet is still going to be very valuable and very large. I suspect in 5 or 10 years from now, Spotify will be very successful for the same reasons that IAC (owner / incubator of smaller internet assets like Match, Expedia, LendingTree, Vimeo, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, etc) has been successful in the last 20 years – The internet is big and if you find a “small” niche, you will eventually discover that your niche is still quite big without having to compete with the big boys. Spotify nominally competes with Apple and others, but honestly, I doubt anyone looks at music / audio and thinks the world hinges on it. And because no one thinks this, Spotify has a good chance at winning it. Still, personally, I think there are more enticing opportunities to bet on, but Spotify doesn’t look bad.
#6 Investing to empower the YouTube experience for the next generation of video
We’re kicking off a new series that takes you inside our ongoing efforts to redefine how the world experiences video.
Putting creativity in your hand: Every year, increasing numbers of people come to YouTube to launch their own channel. But we know there’s still a huge amount of people who find the bar for creation too high. That’s why we’re working on Shorts, our new short-form video tool that lets creators and artists shoot snappy videos with nothing but their mobile phones. Currently, Shorts is available in beta in India. Since the beginning of December, the number of Indian channels using Shorts creation tools has more than tripled, and the YouTube Shorts player is now receiving more than 3.5 billion daily views globally. In the coming weeks, we’ll begin expanding the beta to the US, unlocking our tools to even more creators so they can get started with Shorts.
Shopping for the next generation: We also want to build on this full suite of monetization opportunities through commerce. As consumer shopping habits increasingly shift to digital, we have an opportunity to meet the growing demand for e-commerce. We’re beta testing a new integrated shopping experience that allows viewers to tap into the credibility and knowledge of trusted creators to make informed purchases directly on YouTube. Keep an eye out for this to expand later in 2021.Source: Youtube
Youtube kicked off a series discussing the future of the property. Lots of focus on short video, creator empowerment / monetization, and commerce. While I think Youtube is moving a bit slow compared to others like TikTok and Snap on short video and Pinterest, Instagram, and TikTok on commerce, Youtube still remains a highly engaging channel for a lot of users and creators.
I’m very excited to see the ramping innovation there. I’m probably in the minority, but I don’t really use Youtube (unless I have to) and find the interface too…2005. Cannot wait until Youtube feels more…modern.
#7 Snap Forecasts Multiple Years of 50%-Plus Sales Growth
Snap Inc. shares jumped to a record, reversing an earlier decline, after the social-media company forecast revenue growth of 50% or more for several years, buoyed by investments in more engaging advertising and innovations in augmented reality.
The company, parent of the Snapchat app, is “in a position to drive multiple years of 50%-plus revenue growth,” said Peter Sellis, senior product director, in a presentation Tuesday at Snap’s first-ever investor day. At the event, executives outlined a vision for how Santa Monica, California-based Snap will boost its audience while maintaining user privacy and trust.Source: Yahoo Finance
I was not an early adopter of Snap and still don’t really use all the features…I’ll refrain from saying more before I get “okay, boomer”‘d…but Snap continues to push forward a very compelling vision for what modern media and media engagement should look like.
Whereas there are a lot of different social media experiences, Snap continues to push forward what I think looks and feels most like a “mobile-first social omni-present” experience. Whereas Tiktok is indeed also a mobile-first, social experience (whereas, say Facebook is not), TikTok very much lives in its own little part of the digital world. Snap ties together the digital and the offline in a very interesting and compelling way with fascinating optionality through AR. Snap feels omni-present to me.
A couple of slides worth calling out from the recent presentation deck(s):
1/ The different faces and features of Snap
2/ Snap is becoming global…Snap (and TikTok) is resonating with younger consumers. It is important to keep in mind that developed markets are all pretty old (US is probably the youngest developed market with average age of citizens around 39 years old), whereas most of the emerging markets is VERY young. Yes, China is pretty old now too (around 40 years old on average), but Indians on average are in the 20s (!). Similarly, South East Asia, Africa, and parts of Latin America remain very young. Snap and TikTok resonates with the younger folks.
3/ Spotlight is gaining traction
4/ Snap Map – The map opportunity is highly underestimated. This is unfortunate because other companies are largely positioning maps as a utility (i.e. giving directions), whereas there is massive social and commerce potential through maps. Snap actually does this quite well.
5/ And a whole lot more…games…minis (which basically turns Snapchat into a mini-Wechat or mini-app store).
6/ Have I mentioned AR? Also a lot of latent social and commerce opportunities here.
7/ But what I love most is that their creativity doesn’t stop at just user features or ecosystem…their creativity extends to the advertising and branding side. These ads are not only mobile-native, their Snap-native.
#8 Twitter Investor Day
Like Spotify and Snap, Twitter held an investor day event to discuss their future plans.
Count me in the group of people that LOVE Twitter, but did not expect them to suddenly get their groove on. Twitter is evolving – this is both potentially very exciting but also nerve-wracking.
Whereas Snap is pushing forward a very omni-present social experience, Twitter is pushing forward with a very interest-centric experience.
One of the most recent innovations is Fleets (e.g. Stories…).
But Twitter is going to make it MUCH easier to find topics to follow. In a way it’s going to push users away from the people-centric model of curation that currently dominates.
In addition to topics, Twitter will make it a lot easier to form communities.
On the media / publishing side of things, lots of new things coming including audio rooms (e.g. Twitter’s version of Clubhouse), Revue (e.g. Twitter’s version of Substack), and Super Follows (e.g. Twitter’s version of…tipping? OnlyFans?).
#9 Square 2020 4th Quarter Earnings
Square reported very strong earnings, but the stock reacted negatively as investors digested the coming normalization of Cash App as well as the continued sluggish performance of the Seller ecosystem.
Ultimately, Capital Flywheels thinks it’s all noise. Square is now very rich (at least compared to when Capital Flywheels started getting really excited about Cash App almost 2 years ago), but the long-term potential for Square remains very large.
There’s currently a massive bubble in TAM metrics (every company and their uncle apparently has TAM potential for trillions and trillions…), but Square not only has a large TAM, it has a very, very cost effective way of capturing that TAM and delivering very good unit economics. The company estimates that their customer acquisition cost for the Cash App is less than $5 a user. Not $500 or $5000…just $5. The average bank usually spends about $500-2000 to acquire a new user.
Most companies can grow, but at a cost. Square has achieved a very low cost method of growing in both the Seller and the Cash App ecosystem. Cash App grows through network effects and word of mouth. Seller ecosystem grows very efficiently through strong branding and self-service. Square doesn’t need to spend a lot of money to maintain a large on-the-ground sales force unlike other merchant acquirers.
And these Cash App ROI metrics are rising very rapidly with each new cohort.
#10 Shopify-TikTok Social Commerce Pact Expands, Spurring Facebook, Pinterest In Social Sales
Per Adweek, “The expansion of TikTok’s Shopify channel to a global audience — which now includes Australia, Canada, the U.K, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Israel, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam — gives even more merchants access to … self-service tools to be discovered by TikTok users and to optimize their marketing campaigns.”Source: PYMNTS.com
I’ve been waited with bated breath for Shopify to expand more aggressively globally. While Shopify has expanded to a number of international developed markets, it’s interesting to see a wider expansion into emerging markets via TikTok partnership.
#11 Sea’s Shopee to enter Mexico online market with app launch
Shopee, the e-commerce arm of Southeast Asia’s Sea Ltd, has launched an app for Mexico, where it plans to offer online sales in what would be its second market in the Americas, a Reuters review showed on Monday.
The expansion to Mexico, Latin America’s second-largest economy, could mark a major new growth opportunity in cross-border sales, a market already explored by shopping app Wish.
According to a preview of the app on the Apple website in Mexico, Shopee will offer free shipping throughout Mexico, offering items including electronics, clothes, toys and home goods.
The description of the app says Shopee aims to offer a shopping platform similar to its existing ventures in southeast Asia and Taiwan.Source: Reuters
Sea is just starting to ramp in Brazil. Already expanding into Mexico.
Very aggressive move, but Sea is one of the best executers I’ve seen over the years. They move with urgency. And they are one of the few companies that seem to operate with the same principles as Capital Flywheels has outlined in Competing Against the Past, Competing Against the Future. Sea experiments with a lot invisibly behind the scenes. But once they show you their move, it’s usually only after a whole grand plan is already set in motion.
#12 Zillow Starts Making Cash Offers For the Zestimate
The Zestimate is now an initial cash offer for eligible homes in more than 20 cities nationwide. This ushers in a new era for the Zestimate, the company’s proprietary home value estimation tool, which celebrates its 15th anniversary this month.
When Zillow introduced the Zestimate in 2006, it was the first time people had instant access to an estimated value of millions of homes across America, for free. Today’s announcement highlights the growth in the reliability of the Zestimate with Zillow standing behind its valuations to provide an initial cash offer on qualifying homes through its Zillow Offers service.
Pairing the Zestimate with Zillow Offers is the latest way the company is using technology to simplify and streamline real estate transactions from beginning to end. Zillow Offers customers can already use Zillow-affiliated mortgage, title and escrow services through Zillow Home Loans and Zillow Closing Services.Source: Zillow
I like what Zillow is doing. A lot of companies are trying to reimagine “old” ways of doing things and transforming them. Zillow is tackling one of the most confusing, terrifying, and poor user experiences that still remain unfixed.
But just offering a better user experience doesn’t necessarily guarantee good economics. There has been a raging debate over the last two years about whether Zillow is going to make a lot of money or lose a lot of money as they start to buy properties with their own balance sheet. However, the core advantage that Zillow has is that it is not a price-taker in a commodity industry. Zillow is literally the judge AND the jury. Zillow Zestimate has become a consumer-accepted yardstick for pricing. As long as Zillow Zestimate commands that position, Zillow is very unlikely to lose money in the long run. It can influence what price people think a property should be worth. You’d have to be very bad at what you do to lose money when you have the power to tell people what you think something is worth (and have a lot of people believe it).
I’ve seen a number of investors compare what Zillow is doing to what Carvana is doing in the car market. Simply because both are transforming a very antiquated experience. But I think the supply-side dynamics could not be more different. Carvana simply does not have the power to be the judge AND the jury when it comes to used car prices. Zillow has that power when it comes to property.
#13 LinkedIn reportedly taking on Fiverr, Upwork with gig economy rival
Microsoft’s LinkedIn is reportedly set to enter the gig economy. According to a report by The Information, LinkedIn will launch a service called Marketplaces that will compete with the likes of Fiverr and Upwork. Marketplaces is reportedly set to launch as soon as September.
LinkedIn has 740 million users spanning across a wide range of companies and industries. If Marketplaces can take advantage of that network, it enters the gig economy several steps ahead of other apps and services that enter the market.
Marketplaces will focus on white-collar services related to consulting, marketing, and writing, says The Information. Some industries rely heavily on short-term gigs and contract work, such as app development, accounting, and consulting. Freelance work has grown during the global pandemic as well.
In separate discussions, Microsoft executives have reportedly discussed letting people pay freelancers through LinkedIn using a digital wallet from Microsoft. The Information states that it’s unclear how Microsoft wants to utilize a digital wallet at this time.Source: Windows Central
Interesting! I cannot make up my mind which is more interesting: 1/ Microsoft creating a marketplace or, 2/ Microsoft creating a digital wallet.
#14 Joby Aviation to List on NYSE Through Merger With Reinvent Technology Partners
Company has spent more than a decade developing piloted, all-electric, vertical takeoff and landing passenger aircraft, with over 1,000 test flights conducted to date
Intends to operate clean, quiet and affordable air taxi service starting in 2024
First company to agree certification basis for an eVTOL aircraft with FAA
First company to be granted airworthiness approval for an eVTOL aircraft by U.S. Air Force
Company has strategic partnership with Toyota for production and recently acquired Uber Elevate
Transaction values combined company at $6.6 billion post-money equity value, and is expected to provide approximately $1.6 billion in gross proceedsSource: Joby Aviation
Uber has a stake.
#15 China’s first Mars mission, Tianwen-1, successfully enters orbit around Red Planet
The milestone makes China the sixth entity to get a probe to Mars, joining the United States, the Soviet Union, the European Space Agency, India and the United Arab Emirates, whose Hope orbiter made it to the Red Planet just yesterday (Feb. 9).
And today’s achievement sets the stage for something even more epic a few months from now — the touchdown of Tianwen-1’s lander-rover pair on a large plain in Mars’ northern hemisphere called Utopia Planitia, which is expected to take place this May. (China doesn’t typically publicize details of its space missions in advance, so we don’t know for sure exactly when that landing will occur.)
China took its first crack at Mars back in November 2011, with an orbiter called Yinghuo-1 that launched with Russia’s Phobos-Grunt sample-return mission. But Phobos-Grunt never made it out of Earth orbit, and Yinghuo-1 crashed and burned with the Russian probe and another tagalong, the Planetary Society’s Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment.
Tianwen-1 (which means “Questioning the Heavens”) is a big step up from Yinghuo-1, however. For starters, this current mission is an entirely China-led affair; it was developed by the China National Space Administration (with some international collaboration) and launched atop a Chinese Long March 5 rocket on July 23, 2020.Source: Space.com
The last Tidbits included footage from NASA’s Mars rover.
China (and apparently the UAE?) have also sent probes to Mars recently. China’s probe is still in orbit around Mars, but will likely land on Mars in the coming months.
There’s a whole space race going on and no one talks about it! All of this Mars stuff should be getting more attention. Because science is important. And science is progress.
On a different note, it’s really incredible what China has achieved and continues to achieve. In the last 20 years, China has not only gone from one of the most backward economies in the world to one of the most advanced, they have achieved a level of technological advancement that is starting to rival the US, all while moving hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.
Sending a probe to Mars takes a lot of planning…planning for this likely began years and years ago (the US Mars rover planning began more than 6 years ago, for example). China is very, very impressively pushing development forward on a number of parallel tracks…assuming this project started at least 6 years ago, this means China was putting this together before China tech was even recognized as “good” (my perception is that the West has only started to recognize Chinese tech as “good” starting around 2015 / 2016).
While I am not inclined to read into this as a geopolitical risk, I do hope it starts pushing the US (as a county and as people) to reignite a love for science and progress. Science and progress is uncomfortable, but history consistently shows it’s the only sustainable way to improve standards of living.